ARM Cortex A5 : Great Product, Potential Failure?

More than two years ago, ARM announced a new product range called the Cortex A5 which was said to be more than three times more powerful than the ARM9 range.

The processor actually turned out to be a rather powerful little chip; ARM has been running a benchmark (a script that continuously access popular web pages) comparing one of the first Android phones, the HTC Hero, the HTC Explorer, the Motorola Droid and the Samsung Galaxy Nexus.

Surprisingly, the HTC Explorer which uses a Cortex-A5 based MSM7227A chipset, beats the Motorola Droid flat out even if the latter is based on the Cortex A8. The A5 part runs at 600MHz while the A8 is 550MHz part.

An ARM spokesperson told us that the A5 turned out to be twice as fast as the A8 on average because of architectural tweaks carried out over the last two years.

So in essence, the Cortex A5 is a great product. However, talking to a few big and small semiconductor manufacturers at MWC, we were told not to expect any parts based on the Cortex A5.

One spokesperson for a smaller ARM licensee told us that it is because, in his case, the presence of the Cortex-A9 doesn't warrant using yet another core, especially if you can get it on a small manufacturing process and underclock it.

As it stands, only Qualcomm has had the guts to come out with a range of Cortex A5-based SoC including the Snapdragon S1 MSM7227A which powers the Motorola Motoluxe and the HTC Explorer and the dual core S4 part, the MSM8225 which is a dual core Cortex A5 which runs at 1GHz.